Recently in Injuries to Children Category

July 30, 2014

Knoxville Court Sides With Insurer in Wrongful Death Case: Tennessee Farmers Mutual Insurance Company v. Simmons

file0001977747882 morguefile hotblack.jpgIn Tennessee Farmers Mutual Insurance Company v. Simmons, a man filed a wrongful death lawsuit after his son was tragically killed in a four-wheeler accident with a motor vehicle. According to man's complaint, his son was being supervised by a neighbor's adult daughter at the time of his death. Testimony offered at trial stated the child began operating the four-wheeler without permission after the woman went inside to retrieve a jacket. While the woman was inside, the boy apparently rode the four-wheeler into a nearby street and struck a car that was being driven by an unrelated man. Unfortunately, the child was killed in the collision.

Following the fatal incident, the child's father filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the property owner, her adult daughter, the property owner's insurance company, and the driver of the automobile that was involved in the accident. Although the insurer initially defended the property owner at trial, the company sought a declaratory judgment from the court after claiming the child's accident was not covered under the policy. Due to his interest in the outcome, the child's father was allowed to intervene in the action. The trial court held a hearing on the matter and ultimately agreed with the insurance company. The court determined that the property owner's coverage did not extend to the boy's fatal collision in the roadway. After the father's post-trial motions were denied, he asked the Court of Appeals of Tennessee, at Knoxville to review the lower court's decision.

On appeal, the man argued that the trial court failed to make sufficient findings of fact when it determined the four-wheeler was no longer on the woman's property at the time of the fatal accident and that the court committed error when it ruled in favor of the insurance company because the policy language was ambiguous. The Knoxville court first stated the trial court's decision should be upheld unless it is in conflict with the preponderance of the evidence. Next, the court said that an insurance policy is a contract and its terms should be construed according to their logical and plain meaning. After examining the language of the insurance policy, the Court of Appeals dismissed the man's claim that it was ambiguous. Because the policy interpretation offered by the bereaved father was strained and the trial court properly interpreted the plain language requirements for accident coverage included in the policy, the appellate court refused to overturn the trial court's holding.

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November 27, 2013

Supreme Court of Tennessee Affirms Non-Economic Damages for Child's Car Accident Injuries -- Meals v. Ford Motor Co.

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Recently, the Tennessee Supreme Court reinstated a $43.8 million award in damages to a six-year old boy who was paralyzed in a car accident. A court of appeals had previously remitted the trial court's award by 70%.

Child Paralyzed from Seatbelt
In Meals v. Ford Motor Company, the plaintiff, a 6 year-old boy, had suffered severe abdominal injuries and paralysis after a car accident. The young boy was riding in the back seat of a Ford Mercury and had been buckled, but the boy's father placed the shoulder strap behind the boy's back because it ran across the boy's face. While driving on the interstate, another driver, under the influence of alcohol and cocaine, ran head on into the Ford Mercury. Because the shoulder strap was behind the child, the child's body jackknifed over the lap belt, violently pushing the belt up into the child's abdomen causing severe abdominal injuries, a collapsed lung, loss of a portion of his small intestines, a brain injury, a cracked skull, and a dislocated spine leaving him permanently disabled from the waist down.

Trial Court Awards $43.8 Million
The child brought a suit against several parties including a products liability claim against Ford motor company, because of the faulty design of the safety belt. At trial, the jury ruled that the drunk driver was 70% at fault for the accident, the father 15% at fault for improperly belting the child, and Ford Motor company 15% at fault for the faulty design of the safety belt. The jury awarded damages in the amount of $43,800,000 of which Ford's share was $6,570,000.

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September 4, 2013

Fatal Knoxville ATV Crashes Prompt Urgent Safety Reminders

Two recent fatal crashes in Knoxville involving all-terrain vehicles - one of those claiming the life of a 4-year-old - are sad reminders that use of these machines are to be treated with the same care and caution we afford other types of motor vehicles.
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Although they are smaller, they can be unquestionably just as dangerous.

As a parent, there is no greater loss than that of a child. Devastation doesn't begin to describe the depths of it, no matter what the circumstances. However, what has the potential to worsen the blow is when it was entirely preventable. That may have been the case here.

Officials in Kingsport say the child was playing around an ATV that was parked in the yard of a residence. In the course of his play, he reportedly pushed and pulled the machine and was able to dislodge it from where it was parked. He was standing in front of the machine as it began to roll down a hill toward the house, which was located at the bottom of the hill. The child then became pinned in between the ATV and the home, suffering injuries that ultimately proved fatal.

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June 26, 2013

Tennessee Injury Attorneys: Enjoy Safe, Responsible Fourth of July

With the Fourth of July weekend, most of us are looking for fun with friends and family. It's a beautiful holiday, but it comes with some serious risks.
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According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), roughly 200 people on average visit an emergency room every day with fireworks-related injuries in the month around the July 4th holiday.

"We would encourage you to enjoy the holiday at a public display presented by trained professionals, where compliance with state-of-the-art fire codes offers a safer way to celebrate our nation's independence," said Julie Mix McPeak, the State Fire Marshal and Commerce and Insurance Commissioner.

Our Maryville personal injury attorneys understand that one wrong move with a firework can result in serious injuries and painful memories. Children are actually the most at risk for these kinds of accidents. Children ages 5-19 are at higher risks than any other age group. Fireworks, if used improperly, can result in injury to the eyes of a child or adult as well as varying degrees of burns on the skin.

Before beginning any firework celebrations, make sure you're aware of the state and local laws. Once you've done that, you want to make sure that you're as safe as can be. Consider following these safety tips:

-Never allow children to play with or ignite fireworks.

-If you ever purchase fireworks that are in a brown paper bag, discard them. The brown bag oftentimes means that they were intended for professionals and can be very dangerous.

-Make sure that an adult is supervising all firework activities.

-Be sure that no body part is ever placed directly over a firework device when it's being lit. The safest way to light a firework is to back up a safe distance as soon as it's lit.

-Never point a firework at another person.

-Make sure that there is a bucket of water or a hose nearby for emergency use.

-Don't put fireworks in your pocket.

-Don't light fireworks and ignite them on a metal surface or on grass. Ignite all fireworks on a flat, hard surface.

-One light of fireworks one at a time.

-Never alter the use of fireworks of produce your own homemade fireworks.

-If you come across a "dud," don't attempt to relight it. Simply place it in a bucket of water or hose it down.

-Alcohol and fireworks do not mix. Have a "designated shooter."

-Be cautious of lighting any aerial firework during strong wind conditions. The firework should be lit with the prevailing wind blowing away from the spectators. If there is a significant wind shift during the time you are lighting the firework, the shooting site should be rearranged.

-Remember that sparklers are not toys and cause hundreds of injuries every year. They burn hot, reaching temperatures as high as 1,200 degrees, and they stay hot long after they've burned out.

Your best bet when it comes to staying safe during your Fourth of July holiday this year is to attend your local celebration and leave the fireworks to the professionals.

Continue reading "Tennessee Injury Attorneys: Enjoy Safe, Responsible Fourth of July" »

November 30, 2012

Defective Product Risks for Children this Holiday Season

On November 20, 2012, Action News 5 in Memphis published an article called Survey finds dangerous toys on store shelves. The article discusses the release of the 27th annual survey performed by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group -- dubbed the "Trouble in Toyland" survey.

Parents reading this article and other warnings over the holiday season have cause for concern. Potentially dangerous toys are everywhere on shelves in stores throughout the United States, and the holiday season is a time when many of these toys are bought as gifts and make their way into our homes. Kids are especially vulnerable to being seriously injured as a result of a defective toy or other child's product. 1121740_christmas_gifts_2.jpg

To help parents keep their children safe from dangerous toys this holiday season, our injury attorneys in Knoxville urge parents to learn all they can about toy recalls and to keep up-to-date about any new recalls that occur. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) page on Recalls and Product Safety News is a good starting point for parents. Parents should also consider the information below to help protect their kids from dangerous toys.

Toy Dangers and Risks Over the Holiday Season

Although there are strict toy safety standards in place, a number of potential problems may exist in toys purchased for kids over the holidays. According to the Memphis Action News 5 summary of the Trouble in Toyland survey, some of the risks presented by toys on the shelves this year include:

  • Toys with magnets that could easily be swallowed.
  • Toys with small parts that could be swallowed, which are lacking in adequate choke hazard warnings to ensure the toys aren't purchased for kids under three.
  • Toys that violate safety regulations.

These are just some of the potential problems identified by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, whose full report can be found here. The hazards were identified by researchers who spent several months visiting stores throughout the United States and checking for potentially dangerous products.

Toy Recalls on the Decline, Injuries on the Rise

Although risky toys were found by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, Memphis Action News 5 reported that lead and other toxins were not as much of a concern in toys this year as a result of a tougher product safety law passed in 2008. The new law imposed stricter limits on the amount of lead and other chemicals that could be present in children's toys.

A November 2010 report from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) also indicated that tougher safety laws had started to reduce the number of fatalities associated with toys as well as the number of toys recalled each year. According to CPSC's report, the number of recalls dropped from 172 in 2008 to 50 in 2009 to 44 in 2010. The number of deaths caused by toys was also lower, with 12 kids under age 15 dying in 2009 as compared with 24 toy-related deaths for kids in the same age group in 2007 and 2008.

CPSC did indicate that the number of injuries was increasing, however, even as deaths and recalls dropped. This increase did not necessarily mean toys were more dangerous though, as CPSC indicated that many of the visits to the ER were for mild injuries such as cuts and were not specifically caused by the toy but instead were associated with the toy.

Cutting the Risk of Injury For Your Kids
While CPSC indicated in 2010 that things were looking up for toy safety, the fact is that there is still risk. As such, parents should be vigilant about monitoring the toys that children receive, checking to see if any of those toys have been recalled, and supervising play when any new or potentially dangerous toys are being used.

These steps can be helpful in cutting the risk of injury, but ultimately the best and only way to keep children safe from defective toys is for manufacturers to be held accountable. Manufacturers are in the best position to ensure a toy is safe, and they are held to a high standard of accountability under the law. In fact, injured victims who are harmed by a toy, or the family members of victims, can file a civil lawsuit against the manufacturer to recover damages. If you can show that the toy was used as the manufacturer directed and intended and if the toy caused injury, then the toy manufacturer, distributor or seller can all be held liable.

Continue reading "Defective Product Risks for Children this Holiday Season" »

October 12, 2012

Tragic Tennessee Dog Attack Highlights Owner's Residential Liability

A 4-year-old Union County girl received more than 200 stitches and staples in her face after being attacked by the family's coon hound.

The animal was a rescue dog the family took in several months ago. The animal has been given to the Union County Humane Society. Its fate is uncertain, although the family reportedly thinks it should be euthanized, rather than readopted. Meanwhile, according to news reports, the family is struggling to determine insurance coverage as doctors say the little girl will need months of treatment. 98417_kiva_the_pit.jpg

We are a nation of dog lovers. The Humane Society of the United States reports about 40 percent of U.S. households own 78.2 million dogs. Unfortunately, serious and fatal dog attacks are not uncommon. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 4.5 million people are bitten by a dog each year -- or more than 12,000 dog bites per day!

Nearly 1 million victims a year seek emergency medical treatment and more than 30,000 are forced to undergo reconstructive surgery.

Tennessee dog bite law was updated by the legislature in 2007 and now establishes strict liability for dog owners only under certain circumstances. The Dianna Acklen Act of 2007, T.C.A. sec. 44-8-413, provides that dogs must be under reasonable control and not running at large. "A person who breaches that duty is subject to civil liability for any damages suffered by a person who is injured by the dog while in a public place or lawfully in or on the private property of another."

There is also no liability for injuries that occur on a dog-owner's property unless the victim proves scienter, meaning that the dog owner knew or should have known of a dog's dangerous propensities. The Insurance Information Institute reports more than 50 percent of dog bites occur on a dog owner's property. Thus, under the new law, guests in a dog owner's home may not be covered by his insurance, while strangers on the street enjoy full protection. Tennessee is unique in having passed such a "residential exclusion," which is certain to undergo a battery of legal challenges as these cases make their way through the system.

As it stands now, a victim bitten on a dog owner's property must prove the defendant owned the dog, the dog caused the injuries, and the owner knew or should have known the dog was dangerous. As we see in this case, the rescue dog responsible for the attack could well be "rescued" again by another unknowing family.

The truth of the matter is these cases frequently involve a pet known to the victim, whether a family member's, neighbor's or close family friend's. And children are the most likely victim.

The risks increase as children begin spending more time inside with pets. End-of-year family gatherings and new pets invited into the family during the holidays also increase the risk. While adopting a dog, rescuing an animal or taking in a stray can be admirable alternatives to the pet store, none of these options are without risk. Choose a pet carefully. Supervise its interaction with the family and teach young children how to stay safe around dogs, whether the neighborhood pet or a stray on the street.

Continue reading "Tragic Tennessee Dog Attack Highlights Owner's Residential Liability" »

August 11, 2011

Back to School Means Increased Risks for Child Injury in Tennessee

Early August means it's time for kids to gear up for another school year. While children may be most worried about the new clothes and which teacher they'll have this year, parents are busy worrying about getting their kids to school safely and the risks of child injuries in Tennessee.
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According to the Nation Safety Council (NSC), about 25 million students around the United States will be climbing aboard big, yellow buses this month and heading back to school. Unfortunately, this is also a time where we see a number of injuries and deaths because of school bus-related accidents. As a matter of fact, school bus-related accidents took the lives of 134 people in 2005 alone. During that year, another 11,000 were injured. Of the people injured in these accidents from 2000 to 2004, roughly 46 percent were school bus passengers, about 8 percent were school bus drivers and another 41 percent were occupants of other vehicles. The rest of the injuries were sustained by pedestrians, bicyclists and other persons.

Our Knoxville personal injury attorneys would like to wish all the kids a happy and successful year back at school and we'd like to talk to the parents about important safety tips that can help to keep your child safe this school year.

If your child is walking to school:

-Make sure they walk with a group of kids and always with a responsible adult.

-Be sure that they stay on the sidewalk, if available.

-If there's not sidewalk, remind them to always walk facing traffic.

-Require them to always cross the street at a street corner or at an intersection. It's the safest!

-Make sure they check both ways before stepping off the curb and crossing the street.

-Walk. Don't run across the street. Running makes your child more likely to fall in the street.

If your child rides a school bus, make sure they:

-Stand at least three giant steps, or 6 feet, away from the curb.

-Make sure they cross the street at least 5 giant steps, or 10 feet, in front of a school bus.

-Make sure the bus driver can see them and they can see the bus driver.

-Alert them of the dangers of walking behind the bus.

-Tell your child to never put their head, hands or arms out of the bus window.

-Shhh! Ask them to keep an indoor voice while riding the bus.

-Make sure they keep the bus aisles clear.

-Keep them away from the wheels of the bus at all times.

While parents should be concerned with their student's focus on their studies, you should also be concerned with their safety both getting to school and while they're at school. Equip your child with the knowledge of safety before sending them off to school this year.

Continue reading "Back to School Means Increased Risks for Child Injury in Tennessee" »

June 30, 2011

Knoxville Personal Injury Attorneys Wish You a Safe and Fun Fourth of July

With the Fourth of July finally here, many families throughout Tennessee will enjoy the warm weather by traveling and others will relax at home. Either way, the Hartsoe Law Firm wishes you a safe and fun holiday weekend.

For those of you traveling this weekend, be safe. AAA estimates that 39 million drivers will be hitting the roads, down slightly from 40 million in 2010, USA Today reports. The national auto group believes that an average $1 increase in gas prices is the reason for the slight dip in drivers.
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But 39 million is still a huge number of drivers and they represent a high risk of car accidents in Knoxville and the surrounding areas this weekend. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 989 people died on Tennessee roads in 2009. That ranked Tennessee ninth in the country in highest number of traffic deaths.

And despite tough criminal penalties for people convicted of DUI, people continue to drink and drive, causing tragic and devastating injuries and deaths. In 2009, The Century Council reports, 303 died in 2009 in alcohol-impaired crashes in Tennessee, about 1/3 of the total number of accidents.

While vehicle accidents are a risk, so are boating accidents. Tennessee had 266,185 registered vessels in 2010, which was down more than 3,000 from 2009, according to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. But despite the drop in vessels, there were 167 boating accidents in 2010, up from 2009, when there were 158. There were also 19 fatal accidents in 2010.

The Ocoee River had 34 boating accidents, tops in the state. And while boating accidents that cause trauma are a concern, drowning is also a risk. The Associated Press recently reported that two people have drowned in the Ocoee River this year.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 3,443 fatal unintentional drownings in 2007. Children are most likely to drown. Among children ages 1 to 4 who died from unintentional injuries, nearly 30 percent died from drowning.

So, whether whitewater rafting or swimming in your own pool, be safe. Swimming pool injuries can lead to lifelong injuries and brain damage. Near-drownings can have substantial effects on a child.

But what many people most look forward to during the Fourth of July weekend is fireworks. They light up the sky and are fun to watch, but they can be dangerous. Fireworks accidents claimed seven lives in 2008 and another 7,000 were injured, the CDC reoprts. The most common fireworks injuries are to the eyes, hands, fingers, arms and legs.
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Here are some fireworks tips to keep your family safe this holiday weekend from The National Council on Fireworks Safety:

  • Use fireworks outdoors only
  • Obey local laws
  • Always have water handy
  • Never relight a "dud" firework
  • Don't alter or use homemade fireworks
  • Don't mix alcohol and fireworks
  • Don't let children under 12 use sparklers
  • Use common sense

Continue reading "Knoxville Personal Injury Attorneys Wish You a Safe and Fun Fourth of July" »

June 6, 2011

Teen Driver Dies in Tennessee Car Accident

A 16-year-old girl lost her life this past weekend after she reportedly lost control of her vehicle and was struck by two oncoming vehicles. The crash happened when she went though the median and through the cable-wire barrier of the Interstate. State police are still investigating the accident. They have concluded that the teen driver was not wearing her seat belt at the time of the crash.
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These accidents are not uncommon among our teen drivers. Teens are more vulnerable for a car accident in Tennessee and elsewhere because of their lack of driving experience. They're also more likely to participate in distracted driving behaviors and to ignore roadway rules and regulations.

Our Maryville personal injury attorneys would like to warn teens and parents about the increased risk of motor-vehicle accidents during the summer months. With prom, graduation and summer break approaching, teen drivers will be hitting our roadways in full force. It is no surprise that these months provide the 100 most dangerous days for teen drivers on our roadways.

An autopsy on the teen driver indicated the she died "as the result of neck and chest trauma," according to the coroner's office. Routine toxicology testing will be conducted in order to determine if alcohol or drugs were a factor in the crash,

The father of the teen driver is responding to reports and articles that claim that his daughter was on the phone right before the accident.

"She was not texting and talking on her phone," said Barry Budwell, the teen's father. "That's the first thing I have to hear about, and that's wrong."

After analyzing crash data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the Allstate Foundation discovered that May 20 is the deadliest day for teens on our roadways. This day took the lives of 63 percent more teen lives than average over the past five years.

Because of the increased traffic of teen drivers in the summer, May through August prove to be most deadly. There are 100 days between Memorial Day and Labor Day that have bee coined as the deadliest for teen drivers.

Data from the IIHS also concludes that roughly 60 percent of teen passenger deaths occur in vehicles that are driven by another teen. Other studies concluded that more than 75 percent of teens confess that they feel unsafe while riding with another teen driver.

Motor-vehicle accidents continue to be the number one cause of death for teens in the United States. These accidents take more lives than cancer, heart disease and AIDS altogether. Every year, roughly 6,000 teens die in traffic accidents. This means about 16 teens die because of car accidents every day. More than 300,000 teens suffer injuries from these accidents every year. Overall, teens are involved in three times are more fatal accidents than any other age group of drivers.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 158 teens died in Tennessee traffic accidents in 2009 alone.

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May 7, 2011

Swimming Pool Drowning a Summer Danger in Knoxville, Maryville

Pool season brings a high risk of Tennessee drowning and pool accidents.

Now that spring has arrived, the temperatures will be heating up enough to start jumping in the pool for a swim. Adults are reminded to make sure your kids are under constant supervision in order to prevent a swimming pool accident in Knoxville, Maryville or elsewhere in Tennessee.
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Recently, a babysitter was watching over the son of a well-known trucking entertainer when a pool accident occurred. The Tennessean reports the three-year-old boy fell in the pool and almost drowned under the babysitter's watch. The boy still showed signs of life when he was discovered in the pool so he was LifeFlighted by helicopter to Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Nine days following the fall into the pool the young boy died after being removed from the ventilator. No charges have been filed against the babysitter to date as the incident was considered an accident.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report children are at a high risk of drowning accidents. In 2007, it was reported that over 20 percent of drowning victims were children ages 14 and under. For every five children involved in a pool accident, an average ratio of 1 drowns and 4 have to go to the hospital for nonfatal submersion injuries. Submersion injuries can lead to a permanent vegetative state, learning disabilities, memory problems or long term disabilities caused by brain damage.

Some parts of the state are being proactive in an attempt to minimize drowning and pool accidents this year. WBIR reports the passing of Katie Beth's Law which took effect on January 1st, 2011. The new law requires any homeowner in East Tennessee who has a pool on their property to install a pool alarm.

Building permits will not be handed out by local governments unless the contractor specifically states a pool alarm will be installed. Electrical inspectors will only give a seal of approval to installations that have a functioning pool alarm. Pool companies are required to post signs in their place of business alerting customers about the new law.
Katie Beth, the great grand-daughter of State Senator Charlotte Burks, drowned back in 2009 in a Cookeville swimming pool.

The CDC offers the following MUST DO tips to prevent drowning or pool accidents this summer:

- Learn how to swim by taking lessons and becoming comfortable in the water.

-Kids should have a buddy system when playing in the pool. Never allow a young child to swim alone unless a constant eye is kept on them at all times.

-Never use air-filled or foam toys in replacement of a life vest. These are meant as toys, not to save lives.

-Adults should know CPR, especially if you have kids swimming in your residential pool.

-Install a four-sided fence around the pool area only.

-Have a pool company install a pool alarm at the time they open the pool for the season.

Continue reading "Swimming Pool Drowning a Summer Danger in Knoxville, Maryville" »

March 28, 2011

New Car Seat Rules Aim to Protect Kids from Injury in Knoxville Car Accidents

Our Knoxville car accident lawyers want you to be aware of the recent announcement by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration regarding new recommendations for car seats. The most significant change is to keep children in rear facing seats for as long as possible to prevent serious injuries in a Tennessee car accident.

Research conducted by The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) found that, up until the age of 2, children riding in rear-facing car seats are more than five-times safer than in any other seat. They recommended children stay in rear-facing car seats until they outgrow them.
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The NHTSA recommends looking for a car seat that fits well in your vehicle and one that is based on your child's age and size. Proper installation of the seat should follow the safety seat manufacturer instructions and the vehicle's owner manual. Children, until at least the age of 12, should ride in the back seat.

"The 'best' car seat is the one that fits your child, fits your vehicle and one you will use every time your child is in the car," says Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

Guidelines to follow by age from the NHTSA include:

Newborn to 12 Months: Should always be in a rear-facing car seat. They can be in an infant-only car seat, a convertible seat or 3-in-1 seat. It is advisable to have either a convertible or 3-in-1 seat that has higher size limits so they can be used longer.

1 to 3 years: Keep your child in a rear-facing seat until he reaches the limits for height or weight according to the car seat manufacturer. This is the best method to keep the child safe.

4 to 7 years: Keep your child harnessed in a forward-facing car seat until they reach the maximum height or weight limit allowed by the car seat manufacturer.

8 to 12 years: Keep your child in a booster seat until they are big enough to fit properly in a seat belt. The lap belt should be snug across the hips, not the stomach. The shoulder belt should be snug across the shoulder and chest, never across the neck or face. Children should stay in the back seat until they are at least age 12.

"Selecting the right seat for your child can be a challenge for many parents. NHTSA's new revised guidelines will help consumers pick the appropriate seat for their child," says David Strickland, Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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